KATHMANDU: The theatre movement here has gained a brisk pace and has been able to cater to the tastes of varied audiences.
However, it was not always so. Theatre personalities say that they have even staged plays for just two people as audience. But those involved in Nepali theatre strove a lot armed with dedication to make it through the tough times.
And their dedication and belief in what they do have started to bear fruit. Not only are the theatre artistes and directors growing in numbers, there has been a sharp rise in their audience as well.
“To a certain level, we can say Nepali theatre has been revived,” says Sunil Pokharel, the artistic director of Gurukul, who is one of the prominent names responsible for bringing the Nepali theatre to its present stage.
For him, regular staging of plays has helped to develop the theatre-going culture among Nepali audiences. “Participation, interest and awareness regarding the theatre world has started to develop among the Nepali audience. These are the indications of its revival,” Pokharel points out.
Aarohan Theatre Group started its theatrical journey in 1982. “But the days were very difficult. We had to invite audiences to watch the play. The culture of going to theatre and paying for tickets was rare,” Pokharel says recalling the early days.
There would be no regular shows. Plays would be staged for a day in two months. The situation was almost same even during the 90s. When Gurukul started in 2003, they even had to stage plays for just two persons who had turned up. “People would not bother to even reach the theatres in our initial days,” he adds and informs, “These days most of our shows are house full which is because of the increase in theatre loving
And Ashesh Malla, the pioneer of street dramas in Nepal and director of Sarwanam Theatre Group, echoes a similar view. “Certainly the attraction of the audience towards theatre has become more intense as compared to the past. And the younger generation is a significant part of it.”
A more aware audience
Sarwanam started staging street plays against the repressive Panchayat System in 1982. It devised street dramas as an alternative theatre to reach to the common people that formed the larger part of the population.
“They were longing for a change in the country. So, every time we staged plays advocating democracy, the audience would gather all around us like a shield protecting us from police,” recalls Malla. “They wanted change but were not much conscious about the role theatre could play. But the audience is very aware these days. There are a few who even give us critical feedback after watching our plays,” he adds. “Theatre in Nepal has survived because of the love bestowed upon us by the audience,” he says saluting the audience.
Pokharel opines, “We have a small crowd of intellectual audience who are critical of our work. We need more of such people in the audience who can give us suggestions that will help us produce more quality works.”
Entry of young generation
The emergence of new theatre groups is another indication of theatre’s rising status in our country. Mostly led by the younger generation, these groups are encouraged by the growing popularity of theatre.
Nepal Shakes’ Eleum Dixit states, “Theatre culture has grown, people are going to see plays for awareness and entertainment. Before long theatre will sustain in Kathmandu through audience buying tickets, and a production will end its run when the audience interest is whetted.”
Young Dixit further shares, “This is a country rich in possible themes, and the audience’s enthusiasm is notable and bound to grow.”
Dixit who is gratified with audience’s response to his plays Othello, The Vagina Monologues and Exit the King opines, “The audience are varied in size, but the quality of response has energised me. As a potential audience already exists in the tens of thousands, we should just keep producing what we believe to be good works of art.”
Still a long way to go
“Theatre never died in our country as it is our culture, but did pass through difficult days,” says veteran theatre personality Prachanda Malla. “I have seen an overwhelming response from the audience in the past few years. But theatre artistes are not getting space to show their work. Many can’t afford to rent or buy theatre halls, as such they are unable to stage quality work,” Malla opines. “To uplift Nepali theatre, the Nepal Music and Theatre Academy will surely make an effort in the coming days,” assures Malla who is the Vice Chancellor of the Academy. “But there is a need for continuation of quality work to shape an even better future for the Nepali theatre,” he adds.
The silver lining is there.
And Malla points out a positive expectation, “South Asia will lead the theatre world very soon, and Nepal will be there because we have committed young artistes, enthusiastic audience and a diverse culture that will reflect in the content of our plays.”